A surgical robot fitted with multiple arms has carried out its debut operation in England, in a technology breakthrough which will make new treatments possible for the first time.
The Da Vinci XI, which is hand operated by surgeons, has the ability to make tiny and precise incisions, replacing some traditional operations which require cutting patients open and months of recovery, with far less invasive keyhole surgery.
Surgeons at the Royal Marsden Hospital hailed the technology as pushing the boundaries in surgery, particularly in cancer care, as they completed the first operation on a patient with a tumour today.
Pardeep Kumar, consultant urological surgeon at the hospital, said: "(The surgical robot) acts as an extension of the surgeon's hands and allows us to carry out complex surgeries through tiny incisions. It miniaturises the movements of the surgeon who control it.
"Our patient today has cancer of the colon and they've had several surgeries in the past. That means usually we would tackle this operation with a large open incision that extends from the ribs right down to the belly button," said Pardeep Kumar.
"This robot enables us to do that same operation through tiny incisions instead, because of the control and accuracy of it. It means the patient will wake up from surgery with little or no pain and recover incredibly quickly.
"It's an incredible opportunity for all the surgeons here who are really looking forward to making a difference and pushing forward the boundaries of surgery for cancer."
During the operation, four arms of the robot were used simultaneously to make separate microscopic incisions on the 58-year-old woman, while two surgeons controlled them.
As well as reducing pain and blood loss for the patient, key hole surgery also minimises the time a patient spends in hospital recovering.
The Royal Marsden Hospital said the robot is the latest model to arrive in England from the United States and puts its surgeons at the "forefront of robotic surgery" in the UK.
Although the hospital already carries out robotic surgery, the Da Vinci XI is able to work on multiple areas of the body at the same time and its arms can move independently from the body of the robot.
The hospital said it hopes to carry out one or two operations every weekday with the robot, but says 80% of operations will still be completed in a traditional way because key hole surgery is not suitable.